My Friend Dahmer is a strong example of the power of an engaging nonfiction narrative in illuminating the darker side of human nature.
For teens interested in more insightful, hard-hitting works, check out the following titles. Given that My Friend Dahmer skates the line between teen and adult in terms of collection, please be aware that many of these titles have teen appeal but may be more appropriately shelved in an adult collection due to mature tone and content.
by Charles Burns
Why? A similarly strong voice and artist in sequential art, Burns unsettling record of a mysterious and horrifying sexually transmitted disease amongst small town teenagers in the 1970s is a remarkable, compelling work. The series is about teenagers but the explicit nature of some images make this title one for the adult collection. -Robin
- Black Hole. 2009. 368 pp. 9780375714726.
The Green River Killer: A True Detective Story
by Jeff Jensen and Jonathan Case
Why? This memoir focuses on the long-lasting effects of chasing a brutal killer on the detectives tasked with finding the truth. Teens intrigued by the psychology of killers and the skills that it takes to catch them will find much to contemplate here, although as with My Friend Dahmer, this story is not for the faint of heart. -Robin
- The Green River Killer: A True Detective Story. 2011. 233 pp. 9781595825605.
by Mat Johnson and Warren Pleece
Why? This is a fictional tale but is very much steeped in real history, particular the horrors of lynching in the American South at the beginning of the 20th century. The mystery at its core gives the story structure, but the characters are what stay with you after the culprit’s revelation. -Robin
- Incognegro. 2008. 134 pp. 9781401210977.
Punk Rock and Trailer Parks
Why? Perhaps the perfect palate cleanser to follow My Friend Dahmer, this 2008 graphic novel by writer/artist Derf is set in the same general time period and the same basic geographic area (in and near Akron, Ohio) and similarly features disaffected teenagers on the verge of adulthood, including a big outcast kid, but it ends much, much happier. Derf weaves real-life music history into the fictional tale, which is filled with fun cameos in his signature style. -Caleb
- Punk Rock and Trailer Parks. 2008. 144 pp. 9781593621353.
Richard Stark’s Parker
by Darwyn Cooke
Why? Parker is an anti-hero who deals with femme fatales, drifters, thugs, and con men with vicious aplomb in this tale of revenge. While the story is noir drama rather than memoir, the grit and point of view that keeps you unable to look away from Parker may work for teens looking for more crime drama. -Robin
- Richard Stark’s Parker: The Hunter. 2009. 144 pp. 9781600104930.
- Richard Stark’s Parker: The Outfit. 2010. 160 pp. 9781600107627.
- Richard Stark’s Parker: The Score. 2012. 160 pp. 9781613772089.
by David Small
Why? Although Small certainly overcame the abuse, isolation, and family-fracturing secrets of his teen years, this memoir shares both the confident presentation of a singular artist and the revelation of the cruelty that adults can unleash on their children. -Robin
- Stitches: A Memoir. 2009. 328 pp. 9780393068573.
by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Andreyko
Why? This is an early true crime graphic novel from one of the best writers in the business. Torso follows the investigation by Elliot Ness (yes that Elliot Ness, post-Untouchables) into a string of murders in Cleveland in the 1930s. The case was never officially solved, and Ness’s career almost tanked because of his inability to bring the killer to justice, but Bendis’s graphic tale provides plausible answers by its finish. This title, due to language and explicit violence, is best shelved with adult titles, but will nonetheless appeal to older teens. -Robin
- Torso. 2012. 280 pp. 9780785153566.
Why? Before My Friend Dahmer, alternative comics stripper Derf created his first graphic novel, a memoir of a less dark, less controversial part of his life: The time he spent on the back of a garbage truck, working about as unsavory a summer job as one could imagine. It’s not his best work, but fans of his quirky art style and particular point-of-view will find a lot to like here. -Caleb
- Trashed. 2002. 48 pp. 9780943151526.
The Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium
by Rick Geary
Why? Geary is a master of true crime reporting in the graphic novel form, and this collected edition includes six of his best as well as informative notes on the Victorian era that put the crimes in context. -Esther
- The Treasury of Victorian Murder Compendium. 2013. 228 pp. 978-1561637041
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
by G. Neri and Randy DuBurke
Why? Following both the life and the crimes of 11-year-old gang member Robert “Yummy” Sandifer, this fictionalized examination of what leads children to become killers forces the reader into considering all of the elements on Yummy’s path to murder. -Robin
- Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. 2010. 96 pp. 9781584302674.